Seven of New Zealand's top carbon emitters are being sued for their
failure to protect New Zealanders from climate change, in a new High
Court proceeding filed this week.
Climate activist and spokesperson for the Iwi Chairs Forum’s Climate
Change Iwi Leaders Group, Mike Smith (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu), made the
announcement on the eve of his departure to Mexico where he will be
one of the representatives for the Pacific region at an Indigenous
peoples climate forum .
Smith is alleging that the named companies have committed public
nuisance, have been negligent or breached other legal duties by
emitting greenhouse gases and by not doing enough to reduce those
emissions in the face of scientific evidence that their emissions have
caused, and will continue to cause, harm.
“Māori are particularly vulnerable to climate change, being
disproportionately represented amongst the poor, who will be the
hardest hit. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding and storm
surges will irrevocably damage low lying coastal communities, and
warming oceans and ocean acidification will damage traditional
resources, including fisheries.”
The companies named in the proceedings, representing major direct or
indirect emitters from a range of different economic sectors, are:
FONTERRA CO-OPERATIVE GROUP LIMITED
GENESIS ENERGY LIMITED
DAIRY HOLDINGS LIMITED
NEW ZEALAND STEEL LIMITED
Z ENERGY LIMITED
THE NEW ZEALAND REFINING COMPANY LIMITED
BT MINING LIMITED
These new claims follow earlier legal proceeding lodged against the
Government last month, which are currently before the High Court.
While Smith acknowledged the Government’s efforts in enacting the Zero
Carbon Act, he said steps to tackle climate change do not go far
enough and he is asking the Courts to intervene.
“The urgency of climate change means we need far greater action and we
need it now, and not just from government but also across the private
sector” he says.
“It’s not good enough just to set far off targets, especially ones
that let our biggest polluters like the agricultural sector off the
hook so they can have a bit more time to turn a profit. The fact is
we are out of time and are now looking at damage control.”
The case against the companies is brought by Mike Smith, in his
personal capacity, to protect his customary interests in land and
resources in Northland. The litigation seeks relief including a
declaration that the companies have acted unlawfully, and an
injunction requiring each of them to reduce total net greenhouse gases
by half by 2030, and to zero by 2050, or to otherwise cease their
emitting activities immediately.